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Pride fall to Spartans in tightly contested playoff opener
Pitman boys soccer 1
Pitman's Sebastion Rios dives for a save during the Pride's playoff game against Grace Davis (SAMANTHA SCHMIDT/The Journal).

The Pitman High boys varsity soccer team played host to the Davis High Spartans on Tuesday afternoon in the first round of the Division II CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. The end of the highly physical game between No. 7 seed Pride and the No. 10 seed Spartans, saw Pitman High first year head coach offer a familiar analysis of his team’s performance.

“We tend to start off slow, we pick it up at the end, and sometimes it’s just too late,” Manuel Romero said. “This game, to me, was our entire season summed up.”

By the final whistle, the score stood at 2-1 in favor of the Spartans, with the Pride being unable to generate any offense until the 72 minute thanks to a goal by junior midfielder Davian Lizarraga. At that time, the Spartans had already given themselves a 2-0 lead.

Aside from brilliant defensive play from the Spartans, who only allowed four shots on goal the entire match, the Pride also had to deal with the losses of Kaiden Rieben and Gabriel Shallou Enes, who missed the game due to injury.

“We definitely could have used them today, but it shouldn’t be an excuse. Props to Davis who played really well today. Having our season end definitely hurts,” Romero said.

For the Spartans, though, the motivation of playing an away game despite having a 15-5-2 overall record and 9-3-2 Western Athletic Conference record was all they needed.

“Pitman is a very exciting team and they play beautifully, but I think we’ve got a team who is really good at wining the ball back, and I think that beautiful passing may have worked against them in a way because after two, three, four, five passes, we’re going to get the ball back from you,” said Davis head coach Ninos Isaac. “Credit to Pitman, they’re a great team, but we’re just a tenacious group and got the goals we needed to get the lead and the win.”

Offensively for the Spartans, they were led by junior striker Carlos Varela. Varela scored the first goal of the game in the 38th minute and would later deliver a perfect assist to senior Jon Fregoso for the eventual game-winning score in the 67th minute.

“Carlos Varela is a magical player, but I joke that he is made of class and that I should get paid more for managing him because he’s constantly hurting,” Isaac joked, referring to the fact that Varela remained on the floor for a significant amount of time after a Pride foul. “But the moment, he’s on the pitch, he just produces magic.”

As the Spartans continue to march forward in the Division II bracket, the Pride will have to wait to get back onto the pitch until next winter. Despite their season ending, Romero believes there is a lot to be excited about for his underclassmen-heavy squad that achieved a 6-7-7 overall and 3-3-4 CCAL record.

“We’re still a super young team with a lot of sophomores (5) and juniors (5) and a couple freshman (3),” Romero said. “We have the young core, and although we should’ve been a lot better this year and this loss hurts, I’m confident that this experience will have them fired up and motivated for next year, even myself now that I have a year of coaching under my belt. We’ll all get better and I’m looking forward to seeing us compete next season.”